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Poverty of Family Forces Guest of Houston Catholic Worker to Immigrate

We reached the river at midday. For hours beforehand we had walked through the mountain without speaking, careful to avoid Mexican authorities. Arriving at the shore, we uncovered a small boat, dropped in what belongings we had and began to paddle. In ten minutes time we crossed to the other side, beginning another leg of the journey.

We walked until dark, when the heat of the sun turns to the bitter cold of the night desert. Weary from a long day of travel, we sat on the ground and waited for our next connection. ‘He’ll be here at midnight’ we were told. No one ever came, though. Soon enough we all fell asleep, lying down between the rocks and thorns.

When we awoke we were still alone. There was no food and little water. We waited anxiously for someone to arrive. Before anyone would, however, three more days would pass.

As we sat there, silently, I felt torn. Only a few days from home, part of me longed to return to Michoacan. But anxious to create a better future, I decided to keep waiting, to keep trying.

In Mexico I could not provide for my wife and family. At home, in the country, there are groves of avocado and guava trees, as well as fields of strawberries. None of the land, however, belongs to our town. Many people are given work gathering and packing fruit, but with no unions, wages rarely reach even three dollars a day.

Years ago, when I was younger, I left to study at the university in Mexico City. For three years I took courses towards a degree in computer systems. When my second child was born, however, I had to leave school. Even two jobs could not provide for both a family and an education.

After a while, we decided to return to the country. The expense of putting our son and daughter through school was too difficult, and we decided to stay with family. As a 37 year old man, however, work is much more difficult to find. The fruit companies rarely hire anyone over 30.

Taking whatever jobs were to be found, I worked 16hours a day. Even then, my salary was not enough, and I grew tired of working “solo para sobrevivir y no para vivir.” (just to survive and not to really live.) It was then that I decided to leave for the United States.

The hope of sending my children to school kept me strong while I waited in the desert. For almost four days we didn’t eat. When our ride did arrive, we were given only a soda, before setting out on another 10-hour walk through the night.

By the time I reached Houston I had passed through the hands of five different men. In the house of the last coyote, I was sold and shipped off to Florida, but sent home when no work was found.

On my return I was told about Casa Juan Diego. Almost one month after leaving my home in Michoacan, I was welcomed in by Mark, Louise, and the other Catholic Workers. Without their help I would have been left on the street with no job and no place to go. Thanks to their hospitality, I have been able to find work, and am beginning to save money for my family.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXI, No. 1, January-February 2002.